You need to get out of the office every now and then. You have to take a break. You’re going to burn out. Stop checking your email every two minutes. You need better work-life balance.
Any (or all) of these sound familiar? If you’re one of those people who tends to throw your whole self into your job, they’re all phrases you’ve heard time and time again to warn you against the dangers of becoming a complete workaholic. And, for the most part, it’s valuable and well-meaning advice. Your career is a big part of your life, but it shouldn’t be your whole life.
Allowing your work to consume far too much of your time is a slippery slope. Before you know it, you’re blurry-eyed and exhausted in front of your computer screen at 3AM unable to remember if you even ate dinner. Believe me, I’ve been there.
So, I won’t even try to convince you that being obsessed is a positive thing. It can have dire effects on your personal life—not to mention your sanity and your overall outlook.
However, every now and then, we all find ourselves in those special circumstances and situations when we simply can’t tear ourselves away from our desks. And you know what? I don’t think you need to beat yourself up over that. So, here are four times when it’s perfectly OK for you to be a workaholic.
1. When You’re Under a Tight Deadline
Your boss handed you a project with a ridiculously short deadline. So short, in fact, that you should’ve probably chalked it up as completely unrealistic right from the get-go. But, not you. You enthusiastically agreed to take on the assignment, and now you’re committed to sticking with that calendar.
Needless to say, that compressed time frame will require you to burn the midnight oil and do whatever you can to get this thing done not only well—but on schedule. Luckily, since the deadline is short, you can rest assured that this ridiculous work routine is only temporary. When you finally get that project completed and handed over? Well, take a personal day and recharge. You’ve earned it.
2. When You’re Preparing for Some Time Off
Everybody’s familiar with that mad dash to get all of your work done and your inbox cleaned out before heading out on a vacation. It’s sort of funny, really—we all turn into workaholics in order to take some time off.
But, it happens to the best of us. No matter how early you start planning, you’ll inevitably end up with an assortment of different things to cross of your to-do list in that final week before your break from the office. So, go ahead. Stay late and tackle as much as humanly possible. That way, you’ll be able to leave for an extended period without feeling guilty and distracted. Even better? That relaxing vacation will seem even sweeter.
3. When You Have a Huge, Important Project
That huge sales presentation you’re certain will make or break your entire career. That anxiety-inducing meeting with your boss and the board. We all have those big, intimidating projects that we want to do our absolute best on.
But, as you already know, your best work typically doesn’t happen in a matter of minutes. Instead, it takes long hours, commitment, and your fair share of blood, sweat, and tears. Alright, maybe that’s a tad bit dramatic, but you understand where I’m going with this.
When you’re tasked with a major, significant assignment, you’re more than entitled to give it your all and do your absolute best—even if that means a few late nights in the office. In the end, there really is a difference between working hard at something and being a complete workaholic. What exactly is that difference? Well, that brings me right into my next point.
4. When There’s an End Goal in Sight
My husband is one of the hardest working people I know. He’s studying to be an actuary, which involves a series of torturously difficult professional exams—each of which require at least 300 study hours. So, not only does he work his full-time job as a corporate actuarial analyst, but also hits the books for hours on end on top of that. When exam time is approaching, he’ll study three or four hours after work as well as all day on Saturday and Sunday.
Yes, you could definitely characterize him as a total workaholic. But, the key here is that there’s an end in sight. He has two more exams until he receives his professional designation.
So, when you’re working toward some huge accomplishment—be it a promotion, a specific certification, finishing that daunting project, or another important achievement—you’re allowed to spend a little too much time on your career. Those milestones require hard work and dedication, and you shouldn’t simply brush them off because you don’t want to be labeled as work-obsessed.
However, I do think that this is an area where you need to tread lightly. If you set your “end goal” as being CEO in 25+ years, that means you’ll spend your entire life glued to your desk, and nobody wants that. But, if that light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching and you just need to make that one final strong push to reach it, then—by all means—work to your heart’s desire. The reward will be well worth it.
In most cases, I’d warn you against the dangers of becoming a workaholic. And, even now, I’d recommend doing your very best to avoid becoming so attached to your desk that it literally feels like your third arm.
However, we all experience those circumstances that require us to crank out a few more hours at work than we’d like to. And, that’s OK. There’s no shame in working hard—as long as you can recognize when it’s time to step away and take a break. So, yes, you have my permission to transform into a workaholic every now and then. As they always say, “Everything in moderation.”
Photo of workaholic courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author